Grocery Shopping For Bariatric Foods

Creating a Bariatric Grocery List: Grocery Shopping Tips for Bariatric Patients

Grocery Shopping for Bariatric-Friendly Foods

When first starting a bariatric diet, it’s easy to become overwhelmed trying to figure out what you can and cannot eat. While plans have variations, many have common components that restrict sugars, dense carbs, and fried foods. On the flip side, they emphasize lean protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats. Stock up on these bariatric-approved categories:

Key Takeaways:

Essential Food Categories Focus on lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and low-sugar dairy products.
Shopping Strategies Create a custom shopping list based on your diet, stick to the store perimeter, and consider bulk buying for savings.
Overcoming Challenges Manage cravings effectively and learn tips for dining out without straying from your bariatric diet.

Protein Sources

Protein is essential for preserving muscle mass while losing weight on a bariatric program. Aim for 80-100 grams per day from items like:

  • Lean meats: chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, pork
  • Vegetarian: tofu, edamame, tempeh
  • Eggs and egg whites
  • Protein supplements: powders, bariatric friendly shakes (whey, plant)

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables should make up the foundation of any bariatric diet given their high volume, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Choose options that fit your plan’s carbohydrate limits:

  • Non-starchy veggies: leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, etc.
  • Lower sugar fruits: berries, grapefruit, melon, stone fruits, apples
  • High fiber: lentils, beans, peas, artichokes, brussels sprouts

Buy fresh or frozen to maxmize nutrient density. Caution with high carb veggies like potatoes and corn as well as high sugar tropical fruits and juices.

fresh vegetables for bariatric shopping lists


Not all grains are made equal when it comes to bariatic diets. Focus on whole, high fiber grains that offer protein too:

  • 100% whole grain breads and pasta
  • Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa
  • Steel cut and rolled oats
  • High protein options: chickpea pasta, black bean noodles, lentil rice

Avoid refined grains like white bread, crackers, baked goods, etc. Read labels closely for whole grain content.


Dairy can fit into bariatric plans in moderation. Stick to high protein, low sugar products like:

  • Greek yogurt and skyr
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Part-skim, low moisture mozzarella
  • Soft cheeses: ricotta, goat, feta
  • Unsweetened nut milk: almond, cashew, coconut
  • Fairlife milk (higher protein)

Fats and Oils

While bariatric diets reduce overall fat intake, healthy fats are encouraged for satiety. Some go-to options:

  • Avocados
  • Olives
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Plant-based oils: olive, avocado, coconut, sesame

Avoid trans fats or highly processed vegetable and seed oils. Portion nuts and nut butters as they are calorie dense.


Staying hydrated is critical before and after bariatric surgery. Choose fluids without added sugars:

  • Water: still, sparkling, flavored
  • Unsweetened tea and coffee
  • Low-sodium vegetable and bone broths
  • Protein and electrolyte replacement drinks
  • Sugar-free drinks: flavored seltzer, diet soda (in moderation)

Watch for high carb fruit juices and alcohol as they may be restricted.

Navigating the Grocery Store

Grocery Shopping for Bariatric Foods

Heading to the grocery store may seem daunting when starting a bariatric diet. Shelves packed with forbidden convenience foods can trigger temptation leading to poor impulse purchases that sabotage your progress. Having a battle plan in place makes conquering the grocery store aisles much more manageable.

Design a Custom Shopping List

Bariatric Shopping List

The first rule of grocery shopping is never aimlessly wander the aisles. That’s how unneeded items end up in your cart. Instead, design a detailed shopping list customized to your approved bariatric foods.

Start by drafting a weekly meal plan based on your diet’s guidelines. This should include 3-5 days of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Compile corresponding ingredient lists with exact amounts needed for recipes along with staple items like proteins, produce and shelf-stable goods. Organize everything by store sections – produce, meat counter, aisles.

Print the list organized by store layout and check off items as you select them. Having a week’s worth of meals and ingredients means you shop less frequently. It also prevents staring blankly at store shelves unsure what you can eat. Know before you go!

Stick to the Perimeter

Bariatric Grocery Shopping Tips

The perimeter of grocery stores holds the freshest and least processed sections - exactly what bariatric diets emphasize. Spend most time shopping produce, proteins, eggs and dairy. Venture down aisles periodically for items like canned/dry goods, spices, broths and cooking staples.

Produce should take up your largest cart real estate picking up ample fruits and vegetables for the week. Go for color and variety focusing on lower carb options. The meat/seafood counter is next for proteins like chicken, fish and shrimp. Grab Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and eggs in the dairy department.

Resist the inner aisles with chips, cookies, crackers and cereal. Sticking to the perimeter automatically keeps your cart bariatric-friendly. The visual temptation isn’t there to grab forbidden items.

Bulk Buy to Save

Bariatric Grocery Shopping Tips

Grocery costs can add up when purchasing all fresh ingredients. Certain pricey proteins and staple foods can be bought in bulk on bariatric diets to save money.

Stock up on protein sources like chicken, tuna, Greek yogurt and eggs when on sale. Shop big bags of frozen veggies without salt or sugar. Canned beans, tomatoes, broths last awhile so buy extras to have on hand. Don’t forget cost-effective whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and steel-cut oats.

Shopping this way takes some planning to avoid food waste. Incorporate bulk items into weekly meal prep recipes. Get in the habit of prepping/freezing proteins and produce as soon as you get home.

Follow these tips, make a list and stick to the perimeter, and you’ll be grocery shopping for bariatric success on autopilot in no time!

Overcoming Challenges

Bariatric Grocery Shopping Tips3

While initial bariatric grocery trips may be overwhelming, the tips below can help overcome common obstacles:

Managing Cravings

The first few weeks may plague you with cravings for off-limit comfort foods. Be prepared by:

  • Keeping approved snacks on hand – nuts, hard boiled eggs, sugar-free jello
  • Staying hydrated
  • Distracting yourself with activities when urges hit

The intensity will pass with time as cravings diminish.

Dining Out Tips

Eating out with friends and family may prove tricky after bariatric surgery. With some strategizing, you can still participate without derailing your program:

  • Research menus in advance for complaint dishes
  • Ask for modifications like dressings/sauces on the side, veggies instead of starchy sides
  • Prioritize grilled, broiled, roasted and steamed preparations
  • Don't be afraid to make special requests to accommodate your needs
  • If limited on options, focus on protein first, then veggies
  • Say no to bread baskets, chips, fried starters

The key is being comfortable asking questions and requesting food be prepared how you need. Most restaurants want to provide options.


While bariatric diets impose new restrictions that make finding groceries more difficult, several steps can simplify the process. Planning approved meals and corresponding shopping lists keeps your freezer and pantry properly stocked. Stick to the store perimeter filling your cart with produce, lean proteins and dairy. Buy certain shelf-stable items in bulk for cost savings.

It also helps going in with strategies for managing temptations and dining out scenarios. Over time, bariatric grocery shopping becomes second nature. With some guidance upfront, you’ll transition into a smooth routine that sets you up for ongoing weight loss success.

Writer: Allison

Allison is a seasoned nutritionist and writer with over 15 years in health and weight management. She's authored journals on medical weight loss and bariatric medicine, and has specialized in bariatric foods.

Reviewed By: Dr. K. Huffman

Dr. Kevin D. Huffman, D.O., is a board-certified bariatric physician renowned for his expertise in treating obesity. With over 10,000 patients and a reputation as a national leader in bariatric medicine, he has trained hundreds of healthcare providers. Dr. Huffman develops protocols and training materials sought after by medical societies, pharmaceutical companies, patients, and hospitals.

Weight Loss & Nutrition Journal

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